News About LST 393

USS LST 393 passed one of its most rigorous inspections this weekend with flying colors.

USS LST 393 passed one of its most rigorous inspections this weekend with flying colors.

Cdr. G. Wayne Hessemer, USNR (Ret.), former captain of two LSTs, came aboard and looked over Muskegon’s historic World War II landing craft from top to bottom. He inspected the tank deck, the crew’s quarters, the galley, officers’ wardroom and the wheelhouse. In all, he climbed five steep navy ladders from water level to the top of the ship, the conning tower deck, his former battle station.

Hessemer is 100 years old.

"These ladders were easier when I was in the Navy," he said with a grin while leaning on his cane, “but I'm doing OK."

Hessemer made the trip from his home in northern Ohio with his son-in-law, Walter Reed, and two friends so he could visit one of the last two LSTs – landing ship tank – left out of the 1,051 built during World War II. He was captain of LST 573, which served in the Pacific Theater and took part in the invasion of the Philippines. He was called back into service during the Korean War and captained an LST during that conflict.

No one knows LSTs like Hessemer.

"I inspected every inch of my ship and my boys knew I would," he said, remembering a crew that jumped at his commands 70 years ago. "They used to compete to see who could get a little shoe-to-shoe tap, my sign of approval."

He shrugged off the changes made to LST 393 during her years as a cross-lake freighter from 1947 to 1973. But he was taken aback when he saw the wooden ship’s wheel in the wheelhouse.

"What the heck is that?" he asked in mock horror. "No LST ever had a wheel like that. We had a thin metal wheel. That looks like something from a sailboat."

He approved of the restorations where volunteers have worked to make compartments look like they did back in 1944. He said he felt like he could sit down and take a meal in the wardroom, where officers were served food during wartime. And he felt right at home in the captain’s quarters, although he pointed out that some of the furniture was not placed quite right.

LSTs were the largest landing craft built – nearly 330 feet long and 50 feet wide – and could go right up onto a beach. They carried tanks, trucks, artillery and almost any other weapon of war imaginable. LST 393 – moored at the Mart Dock on the Muskegon waterfront – is now a museum. It offers tours to view renovated areas of the ship and museum exhibits; it also hosts a wide variety of events and memorials.

Hessemer stood at LST 393’s ramp and spent a few moments looking out through the giant bow doors. The view was of downtown Muskegon, but he was probably seeing a beach in the Philippines where his beloved LST 573 had just successfully landed.

"It was an honor to be aboard," he said. "She's in great shape."

"Carry on."